Sunday، 15 May 2016 12:00 AM
After a long drive through the barren landscape of the Western Desert, you won’t believe your eyes when you reach Siwa for the first time. See an edenic island full of mineral springs, salt lakes and endless Olive and Palm groves.
For a cultural tour in Shali, the oasis' main town, check out the strange ruins of the Shali Fortress which dominate the town center and walk along sandy paths to find the Temple of the Oracle, once visited by Alexander the Great himself to consult the Oracle of Siwa. Finish your day by taking a dip at Cleopatra's Pool, where the legendary queen herself is believed to have once swum. Don’t forget to buy some Siwan Crafts on your way, and spare an hour or two for a visit to the charming Siwa House Museum.
Adventurous travelers will also get their fix of fun and excitement by heading for a safari into the great sand sea or trying out quad biking in the Western Desert of Egypt.
It is advisable to visit Siwa and any other Western Desert destination in the cooler months of the year, from October to April that is. Temperatures in summer can reach up to 35-45 C.
The Olive and Palm Gardens of Siwa
Surrounded by lakes that are too saline to support fishing, Siwa has been famous for its olive groves and palm gardens since ancient times. The oasis boasts more than 300,000 palm trees, 70,000 olive trees as well as many fruit orchards. The area has thus become very attractive to different sorts of birds, such as falcons and quails. Strolling through the rich palm groves, you will soon be convinced that Siwa’s main attraction is its serene ambiance.
The center of Siwa is dominated by the ruins of the 13th century Shali fortress.
Built from a material known as “kershef” (salt rocks from the local salt lakes and mud), the ruins are subject to additional disintegration after each rainfall.
You can walk up to the top of the fortress to witness spectacular views of the oasis and its surroundings.
Temple of the Oracle
Located 4 km east of the present town of Siwa, the Temple of the Oracle is believed to havehoused the famous Greek oracle of Jupiter Amun, to which Alexander the Great headed directly when he came to Egypt for the first time in 331 BC. Reputedly, it is believed that the Macedonian leader asked the oracle if he was going to “rule the world,” legend has it that the answer was “yes, but not for very long.” The temple has a great vestibule and forecourt.
Nearby, south of the temple, you can reach the temple of Amun which dates back to the30th dynasty.
One of the most famous attractions in Siwa is Cleopatra's pool, a stone pool fed by a natural hot spring, where the Egyptian queen herself is said to have swam on her visit to Siwa. Tourists have all been doing the same for years now; after all, a nice swim is so refreshing after a hot summer day tour!
You will find a cabin nearby where you can change into your bathing suit but bear in mind that women should give more thought to their swimming attire; the local men aren’t used to the sight of a woman in a swimsuit. A tee-shirt is advised.
Siwa has the best craft tradition in any of the Western Desert oases. There, you can buy unique ceramic Tajine dishes – the traditional pyramid-like Saharan cooking pots – handmade, beautifully decorated and fired in bread ovens, as well as embroidered traditional Berber wedding dresses.
Siwa House Museum
Located in a traditional Siwan house, the museum boasts traditional Siwan objects such as silver jewellery, music instruments, wedding costumes, baskets and ceramics. Inspired by a Canadian diplomat who feared that Siwan culture and its mud-brick houses would disappear someday; the small but interesting Siwa House Museum was built to preserve and display artifacts depicting the various aspects of the Siwan life.
The Great Sand Sea
Covering over 72,000 square kilometers and forming the northern edge of the Sahara, the Great Sand Sea is the world’s third largest dune field. Siwa is the northern gateway and the perfect starting point for a safari expedition into a truly magical landmark. Experience the infinite tranquility of endlessly undulating dunes before stopping at one of the desert camps for a magical night under the stars.
The Great Sand Sea is one of the largest dune fields in the whole world and contains some of the largest recorded sand dunes, one of which is 140 km long.
Quad Biking in the Western Desert
Take a quad bike tour across a beautiful landscape surrounding Siwa Oasis. You'll find several places in the oasis that rent out quad bikes, so take a ride around and watch the sun set or rise and change the colors of the desert terrain. No experience is needed for this fun activity; just make sure you take a scarf and sunglasses or goggles to protect your face from the sand, and that you are accompanied by a guide.